Fishergate device could have caused 'fireball', court told

Jurors have continued to hear evidence at the trial of a mentally ill man accused of planting an explosive in a busy Preston shopping centre just before Christmas.

Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 12:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 2:58 pm
Fishergate Shopping Centre

The discovery of the home made explosive - made from a firelighter, an aerosol can, a Lego box and a toilet roll tube - led to a mass evacuation and closed the Fishergate Centre on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

David Rutherford, 25, who lived with his mother on Barry Avenue, Ingol, Preston, at the time, is accused of planting the device in the men’s toilets at the shopping centre on December 17 and is on trial at Preston Crown Court.

Rutherford, who has significant learning difficulties, has been deemed unfit to enter a plea to charges of making an improvised incendiary device with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property, and doing an act with intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause injury or damage to property.

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Instead, unlike a normal trial in which people are found guilty or not guilty, the jury must return a verdict that he did the act charged against him if they are sure the prosecution has proved its case against him.

Forensic expert Robert Lewis, who examined the device, gave evidence on the second day of the trial.

He told jurors if it had ignited it could have exploded and led to “a small fireball” from the can.

Jurors were then shown CCTV taken from shops and businesses across the city which the Crown say track Rutherford from Preston Bus Station to the Fishergate Centre, where he entered the men’s toilets with a black and white striped bag and left without it, before returning home.

Prosecutor Richard Archer told jurors: “ Taken together, the prosecution say that the picture or profile of the man seen on the CCTV links him inextricably to the defendant.”